Heron Pike and Alcock Tarn

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Fairfield Horseshoe from Rydal Fell.

Another evening post-walk work. It was still quite warm. My plans centred around an evening swim. Northern Rail’s failings threw a spanner in the works, because a cancelled train left me driving the kids home first. Since I was at home and had some cooked chicken in the fridge, I decided to quickly throw together a salad to take with me to eat whilst I was out.

So, I was a bit later setting off than I usually am, and I still hadn’t decided where to go. I was trying to think of somewhere not too far away, with a shortish walk in, a good swimming spot, and which was likely to retain the sun as it began to sink. I couldn’t really think of anywhere which met all the criteria and, more by default than anything else, finally parked in Rydal, intending to visit Buckstones Jump. But I’d forgotten that the track we’d used when I took the boys there, has signs saying that it is a farm track only, with no public access. I stood and vacillated for a while. I could just trespass; would there be anyone about to notice me now? But in the end, I chickened out and changed my plan.

Not before I’d noticed this gnarly old Oak though…

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Or, more specifically, the fungi growing on a splintered part of the trunk…

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I’m pretty sure that this is Sulphur Polypore, or Chicken of the Woods, something else, like Herb Paris, that I’ve waited a long time to see. It’s allegedly good to eat and if I’d had a ladder with me, or a small boy adept at shinning up trees even, I would be able to report on the flavour. But I didn’t have either, so I shall have to wait again.

I consulted the map and realised that I could climb Heron Pike and then return via Alcock Tarn, giving what looked to be a fairly reasonable round, all sticking to western slopes, where I would keep the sun for longer.

The climb up Nab Scar was, frankly, too steep for a hot and sticky evening, but at least I was rewarded with views back to Wansfell and Windermere.

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I met a couple descending just before I took this photo; they were the last other walkers I saw all evening.

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Nab Scar pano.

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Heron Pike from Nab Scar.

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Rydal Fell, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, and Dove Crag from Heron Pike.

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Heron Pike and Windermere from Rydal Fell.

On the top there was a welcome bit of breeze. Welcome, that is, until I wanted to sit down, make a brew and enjoy my salad and the views. Fortunately, I found a small hollow just off the top of Rydal Fell which was sheltered, in the sun, and had fine views of the Coniston and Langdale Fells, with the Scafell range beyond…

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My salad barely touched the sides, but making and drinking a cuppa took a while, which was a perfect excuse to sit in this peaceful spot and soak it all in.

I’ve been quite surprised to discover, retrospectively, that Nab Scar and Heron Pike are both Wainwrights and that, in addition, Rydal Fell is a Birkett. I might not have bothered if I’d paid any heed to wainwright in advance however:

“Heron Pike is a grassy mound on the long southern ridge of Fairfield. From no direction does it look like a pike or peak nor will herons be found there. It is a viewpoint of some merit but otherwise is of little interest.”

From Rydal Fell I almost doubled back on myself,  contouring around the western slopes of Heron Pike before descending towards Alcock tarn.

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Loughrigg, Coniston Fells, Grasmere, Alcock Tarn.

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Alcock Tarn.

In Heaton Cooper’s marvellous guide to the tarns of the lake district you can discover that Alcock Tarn was once Butter Crags Tarn before it was dammed, by a Mr Alcock, and stocked with trout. AW, the Auld Whinger dismisses it as ‘a dreary sheet of water’. He must have been in a foul mood when he wrote up Heron Pike. In ‘A Bit of Grit on Haystacks’, an anthology edited by Dave Hewitt and published by Millrace Books to commemorate both the centenary of Wainwrights birth and the fiftieth anniversary of the first of his Pictorial Guides, appropriately The Eastern Fells, which contains the entry on Heron Pike, Harry Griffin tells a story, which he learned from a mutual friend, of Wainwright abandoning a round of the Fairfield Horseshoe and heading directly down to Alcock Tarn from Heron Pike in order to avoid Griffin, who was also a friend, because ‘he talks too much’. Nice chap.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Wainwright!

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Alcock Tarn. Dreary.

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Dropping down from Alcock Tarn I picked up the Old Corpse Road between Grasmere and Ambleside to take me back to Rydal. There are no photographs here because the sun, and with it the best of the light, had gone, but it’s a route which has appeared several times on the blog before, because this is one of my favourite low-level routes in the area.

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A little over 7 miles with around 550m of ascent.

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That evening, the valley of Rydal Beck soon disappeared into shadow, whilst I was in glorious sunshine on the ridge, so my choice turned out to be a fortuitous one. I have a pet theory about a different way to get to Buckstones Jump which I would like to try. I’m not sure when I will get around to it though.

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Heron Pike and Alcock Tarn

Barbondale, Brownthwaite Pike, Casterton Stone Circle

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St. Bartholomew’s Church, Barbon.

More glorious May weather and another post-work Lune-Catchment wander. This was on a Thursday evening, the day after my photos from Kirkby Lonsdale in the previous post. You remember that I pointed out how Brownthwaite Pike dominates the view from Kirkby? Equally, Brownthwaite Pike has a great view over the Lune Valley and Morecambe Bay.

Years ago, when I was single, my evenings walks rarely took me any further than I could get, under my own steam, from my front door, but just occasionally I would pack up a meal and head out for a picnic on an easily accessible hill with a good view. Brownthwaite Pike was, I think, the place I visited most often: I could park high, at Bullpot Farm, and it was an easy walk from there.

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The lychgate.

This time, I would do it properly, starting from the village of Barbon.

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Female Blackbird.

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Barbon Beck, another tributary of the Lune.

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Bluebells!

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The right of way initially follows a track which is heading up to Barbon Manor. It’s metaled and even has barriers. I presume that this is the course used for the Barbon hill-climb, an annual motor-sport event.

Soon though, the route parts company with the race-track and heads into the woods of Barbondale and more bluebells…

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Better yet to emerge from the woods into the sunshine…

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I initially assumed that this…

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…was a Hawthorn, covered in Mayflower, but it wasn’t…

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I think it might be an apple-tree. There were a couple more close-by. Maybe there was an orchard here once, when valleys like this one were more populous?

High on the hillside to my left, I spotted an unusual cairn, apparently with a chamber inside it…

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It wasn’t to be the last unusual cairn on the walk.

I chatted to a birdwatcher, who asked me if I had seen anything good? He reported Pied-flycatchers and could hear Willow Warblers nearby. I had nothing so interesting to share. But, soon after passing him, spotted a pair of Reed-buntings and then…

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…a Red-start. This was only the third time I’ve seen one and my best photo yet, although, obviously, still room for improvement. I waited to tell my new bird-watching friend, but then felt guilty because we couldn’t find it again among the trees.

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I also briefly glimpsed a raptor in pursuit of another bird just above the hillside, but soon lost sight of both. This heron…

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…sailing purposefully by, was much more obliging.

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Barbon Beck and Barbondale.

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A warbler. Could be one of those Willow Warblers?

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I heard some strange, harsh bird calls, which made me think of grasshoppers, and so thought perhaps they came from Grasshopper Warblers. I saw a few of the birds, low in the vegetation, but this is the only photo I managed. Having looked in my guide, I’m pretty sure that this is not a Grasshopper Warbler, but apart from that, am none the wiser.

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This stream, which feeds into Barbon Beck and is therefore another one of the Lune’s vast tree of sources, is not named on the map, but is, in turn, fed by several smaller streams including Hazel Sike, Little Aygill and Great Aygill. The road bridge which crosses it, however, is called Blindbeck Bridge, so I suppose this must be Blindbeck.

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Castle Knott and Calf Top.

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I was impressed with the situation of Fell House, in a remote position above Barbondale.

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I’ve seen lots of butterflies this month, but have struggled to photograph any of them. This one looks like a female Orange-tip, but has confused me because it has no wing-spots.

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The top of the beck obviously changed in nature, becoming steeper sided with outcrops of rock, I think because the underlying rock was now limestone.

I watched this bird of prey,…

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…presumably a Kestrel, hovering in roughly the same spot for ages as I climbed beside the beck. Later I watched a pair swoop across the hillside and both alight in the same tree, where I assume there was a nest, although I couldn’t see it.

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Bullpot farm.

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Cuckoo Flower.

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Female Wheatear.

The short road walk from Bullpot Farm was enlivened by numerous birds, mainly Wheatears and Meadow Pipits which were flitting around the drystone walls on either side. Also by the expansive views…

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Gragareth and Leck Fell House.

And by the calling of two Cuckoos. In fact, the sounds of Cuckoos had accompanied me most of the way up Barbondale too.

The highpoint of Barbon Low Fell is unnamed on the OS map, but I notice online that other walks have used the name Hoggs Hill, which is nearby on the map. In the absence of any better suggestions, I shall do the same.

As I approached Hoggs Hill then, I noticed another raptor, a Kestrel again I think, sat calmly on a wall, watching me.

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I scrabbled to get my camera pointing in the right direction and focused, but the bird was away before I managed that…

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Hoggs Hill.

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Middleton Fells from Hoggs Hill.

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Crag Hill and Great Coum.

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Forest of Bowland.

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Brownthwaite Pike.

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Close to the top of Brownthwaite Pike there’s an absolutely huge cairn. It’s so big that you can see it from Kirkby on the far side of the valley below. I can’t find any reference to it on the Historic England map, but there’s plenty of speculation online about the possibility that it might be ancient and perhaps a burial cairn.

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You can see why this spot might have been chosen as it commands clear views over the Lune Valley, the Bowland Fells and Warton Crag , where there was a hill-fort.

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I descended by this…

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….arrow-straight lane.

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Looking towards the hills of home.

From the lane I could look down on an ancient site which is recorded on the Historic England map…

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Casterton Stone Circle.

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Here’s another view of the henge from a little further down the lane. I’ve read that the stones only protrude slightly above the surrounding turf, but it certainly stands out from a distance.

Closer to hand, on the verges of the lane, there was lots of Lady’s Mantle coming into flower…

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And also many spears of Bugle…

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But what I appreciated particularly was the way the two were frequently growing together, intermingled…

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There was also a bit of what I think was Sheep’s Sorrel about. This one…

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…growing on a tree trunk.

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The leaves certainly had the refreshing, citrusy flavour characteristic of both Common and Sheep’s Sorel, and I munched on a few as I walked.

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The track brought me to the minor road which lead, ultimately to Bullpot Farm and I turned to follow it in the opposite direction, downhill.

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Crosswort.

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I think that this must be the wind farm which I photographed last summer from Burns Beck Moss.

I turned on to Fellfoot Road, another track, and found…

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…several small sheepfolds each with a large boulder inside.

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They are Andy Goldsworthy sculptures.

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There are sixteen of them in all, but I only passed four of them on this walk.

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I’m a big fan of Goldsworthy, but don’t know quite what to make of these. I’ve walked past some of them a couple of times before. One day, I suppose I will walk the entire lane and collect the full set.

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It was getting rather late now.

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So I was hurrying to get back to my car in Barbon and didn’t stop for long to admire Whelprigg…

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…a rather grand house built, apparently, in 1834.

Another glorious evening outing.

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Barbondale, Brownthwaite Pike, Casterton Stone Circle

A New England

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Another sunset from the Cove. (It must be ages since I last posted one?)

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Another evening stroller commented as I passed: “Look at the Power Station – it looks like it’s on fire!”

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Heysham Nuclear Power Station.

Sometimes even the ugliest of things can catch the light just right.

I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them, but they were only satellites

from A New England by Billy Bragg

Something else I don’t usually see in the village…

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…Morris Dancers.

A New England

Wildflowers on Heald Brow.

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Meadow Ant mounds on Heald Brow.

The Friday evening of the first May Bank Holiday weekend. TBH and Little S had tootled off to Dublin for their rugby tour. The team had had a surprise good luck message from “you know, that England rugby player, Dylan Thomas”, as TBH put it. Turned out to be Dylan Hartley, which is almost as impressive.

A and B and I were also going away, but A had a DofE training event on the Friday night and Saturday morning, so I decide to take advantage of the good weather we were having and get out for a local ramble.

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The ‘force that drives the green fuse’ had been hard at work and Heald Brow was resplendent with trees bedecked with new-minted leaves and a host of wildflowers.

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Primroses.

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Cowslips.

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Early Purple Orchid.

I walked a small circuit around Heald Brow and stumbled across an area carpeted with Primroses…

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If anything, this is even more impressive than the patch nestled in the limestone pavement at Sharp’s Lot which I am always keen to visit each spring.

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In amongst the standard yellow flowers were some variants…

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In the past, I’ve always assumed that these colourful exceptions were garden escapees, but now I’m wondering whether it was simply mutations like these which led to the selective breeding of the diverse variants which are now available for gardens.

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Bugle.

I dropped down to the salt-marsh.

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Warton Crag.

Which, unfortunately, left me in deep shade for some time.

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Scurvygrass.

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Gorse at Jack Scout.

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A Jack Scout shrub – shaped by the lashings of salty winds off the Bay.

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Sunset from Jack Scout.

Wildflowers on Heald Brow.

A Change is Gonna Come

Eaves Wood – Waterslack – Sixteen Buoys Field – Hawes Water – Thrang Brow – Yealand Allotment – Leighton Moss – Golf Course – The Row – Hagg Wood.

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Hawes Water.

A midweek evening walk from the beginning of the month.

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Dryad’s Saddle.

I’ve haven’t been able to visit Hawes Water for some time: the paths have been closed whilst some tree felling is carried out.

The paths are still closed…

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…but my patience has run out, and besides, I was pretty confident that nobody would be still felling trees well into the evening. Clambering over the fallen trunks was relatively easy, but the bridge over the stream between Little Hawes Water and Hawes Water had been blocked with a huge pile of twiggy branches, which was a bit more tricky to circumvent.

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I think that I understand both why the work is being carried out and why some people are upset by it. I was concerned that the tree by the path which hosts Toothwort would be felled and it has been. But it will presumably send up new shoots and the Toothwort shouldn’t be affected. Time will tell.

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A top-loading washing machine?

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Time will also perhaps heal the huge ruts left by whatever has been used to haul out the timber. In the long run, we shall also see whether the stated aims of improving the water quality in Little Hawes Water and extending the area of grassland by the lake where Bird’s-eye primrose and Grass of Parnassus flower are achieved.

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With these thoughts to mull over, I set off for Thrang Brow, hoping for a view of the Lakeland Hills. The sun was in the wrong spot – although I shouldn’t really complain about being able to see the sun!

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I dropped down to Leighton Moss and before I left the road to gain the path there was pretty sure that I could see a Red Deer moving through the trees. There were Chiff-chaffs singing in the treetops too.

This warbler…

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…I think that it’s a Sedge Warbler.

This part of the reserve is criss-crossed by tracks where the thick black mud is churned by a herd of Red Deer and I was hopeful of spotting some deer again. I didn’t have to wait long…

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Two stags, whose antlers are just beginning to grow, unlike the Roe Deer bucks who have mature antlers at this time of year.

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I dipped into Lower Hide briefly. I once saw an otter here, on a late visit, but this time I had to settle for a low-key sunset.

I realise that the felling of a few trees and the removal of a boardwalk is not the sort of change that the song refers too, but I heard the Sam Cooke version of this tune on the radio the other day and it’s been in my head ever since. I think that I may just prefer this Otis Redding take on the song, but I’m not entirely sure.

A Change is Gonna Come

Eaves Wood Sunset.

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Looking to the Bay and Humphrey Head from Castlebarrow.

A late stroll around the woods. The sun had already set when I set-off.

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I made a point of visiting the Toothwort.

And then found a track into an open area which I haven’t visited before…well, not from that direction anyway.

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But mostly I enjoyed the afterglow of the sunset in the skies above the trees.

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And the cacophony of some Jackdaws and Rooks…

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…who were having a final squabble before settling down to roost…

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Eaves Wood Sunset.

Pen-y-ghent and Plover Hill

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A Saturday which, forecast wise, hadn’t promised much, suddenly brightened around lunchtime. Over our bowls of soup, I quizzed the family about their plans for the rest of the day, but for one reason or another they were all indisposed. I wanted to make the most of what was turning into a glorious afternoon, and it didn’t take me long to decide what to do: another hunt for Purple Saxifrage, having been a little too early for it on Ingleborough just over a week before.

I hadn’t actually made my mind up whether to tackle the walk on the western slopes of Ingleborough, which had been the original plan for my previous outing, or to head back to Pen-y-ghent where I first saw the saxifrage last year, but as I drove north from Ingleton I noticed that the Hill Inn was doing a roaring trade, likewise the Station Inn at Ribblehead. More importantly, there was a distinct lack of parking spaces and some of the roadside parking was decidedly dodgy, so I opted for Horton and Pen-y-ghent. As I drove down Ribblesdale towards Horton, I passed scores of walkers coming the other way up the road. Presumably, many of them were ‘doing’ the Three Peaks. They’d picked a fine day for it, but to these eyes at least, a lot of them looked hot and knackered and not particularly happy.

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Anyway, Horton was relatively quiet and I was soon climbing the nice steady Brackenbottom path, stopping regularly to take photos of the changing views of Pen-y-ghent.

There were still quite a few people about; mostly, but not exclusively, on their way down. I was quite surprised that there seemed to be a few parties following me up the hill, given that I’d only set-off from my car at around 3.30pm and most walkers seem to be fairly rigid about the times which are suitable for beginning and ending a trip.

As I was taking this photo…

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…a couple stopped to ask me if I was “walking or sight-seeing?” They also wanted to know about the zoom on my camera.

“It’s huge,” I told them

Although, in retrospect, it’s actually more true to say that, of its kind, it has a relatively modest zoom. I thought I might be able to demonstrate.

“You see that limestone cliff pretty much directly below the summit? I’m looking for Purple Saxifrage, and I think maybe I can see a bit of purple from here – the camera should tell me whether I’m right or not.”

I probably sounded like a pompous buffoon, but anyway…

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Taa-dah!

This not only impressed the punters, but also settled my immediate plans: I would stick to the path as far as the lower line of cliffs and would then traverse across beneath those cliffs in search of saxifrage to photograph. After that? Well, time would tell: maybe I could continue below the cliffs as far as the next path up to the summit; or perhaps I would retrace my steps; or maybe, seeing how broken those cliffs are, I could work out a route up through them to the top.

It can be a quixotic business this flowering hunting lark: when I got there, the slope just below the cliffs, which I knew would be steep, seemed maybe a bit steeper than I would have preferred…

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I don’t think it helped my aching calves and slightly wobbly knees that I kept staring up at the cliffs searching for purple…

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I think the sheerness of the rocks was magnifying, in my mind, the gradient of the mossy ground beneath.

At least the treasure I’d come seeking was there, in some abundance….

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I was just pondering on what might be pollinating these early flowers at this altitude when a Bumblebee buzzed over my shoulder in search of nectar.

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I suppose coincidences like this, when the workings of the old grey matter and events in the outside world somehow conspire to run in tandem, only seem eerily common because whenever they happen it’s striking and we remember it.

This bee might be a Buff-tailed Bumblebee, or a White-tailed Bumblebee, or a Northern White-tailed Bumblebee, workers of which species, I’ve just discouragingly read, are ‘virtually indistinguishable in the field’. Or maybe it’s none of the above. Bumblebee identification is very tricky.

Whilst I took these pictures, a second bee, some kind of Red-tailed variety, began to forage from the same clump of flowers, but proved too elusive for me and my camera.

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There seems to be something small and orangey-brown attached to the bees behind, and in this photo…

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…although they are hard to see, several more clinging to her neck. I wondered whether they might be mites, so did a little lazy internet research. Apparently Bumblebees do sometimes host mites, but, somewhat to my surprise, the mites are thought to be generally benign. They live in the bees nests, subsisting on honey and wax and then, at certain times of the year, piggyback a lift to flowers in order to jump a ride on another bee and find a new nest. Free-loaders! However, whether these are mites or not I’m still none-the-wiser.

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Whilst the airiness of my position had upped my pulse a bit, when I stopped staring up at the flowers, and stepped down a yard or two from the cliff I kept feeling that the next section didn’t look too bad after all. Once or twice I decided to descend to easier ground, but always shortly found easier going without that necessity. So, in fits and starts, I made it round to the base of the big crag where I had first spotted the flowers from below…

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Down below…

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…it seemed that Pen-y-ghent, like Ingleborough, has had a substantial landslip, something I shall have to come back to investigate another time.

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At first, I thought that this feature, on the left of the cliff, might be a tower, but in fact it’s a large fissure, what climber’s would call a chimney, I believe. Just beyond here the cliffs, which had always been rather intermittent, gave out altogether, at least for a while. Above I could see more steep slopes and then the second line of crags, presumably of gritstone. These were taller crags and fairly imposing, but on the left you can see the edge of a wide gully which looked like it might be a chink in the mountain’s armour.

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Close to the gully…

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I probably could have got up the gully, it was neither particularly steep or very exposed, but the first little scramble required a large step-up which, not as agile as even the clumsy, inept scrambler I once was, I decided not to attempt. Instead I contoured out on the ledge roughly half-way up the crag opposite.

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And turning the corner, found that I’d also turned the crags and was faced only with a short walk, admittedly up a steepish and unpleasantly loose slope, to the summit plateau.

A wall runs across the top…

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…and a clever S-shaped bend makes two shelters one facing east and one west. I sat in the west facing one, with the sun and a hazy Ingleborough in view.

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It was around 6.30 in the evening. I put a brew on and sat back to enjoy the fact that, after all the crowds I had seen earlier, I now had the top entirely to myself. It can be done, even on this most popular of hills.

Well, not entirely to myself: I could hear the accelerating croaky-rattle of grouse and then heard and felt, rather than saw, something whirr over my head. Thinking that the bird had been so close that it must have been intending to land on the wall until it saw my head, I stood to take a look around…

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Skylark.

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As I was finishing my brew, I heard a runner coming up the path behind me. He’d been surprised by the heat and was gasping for a drink. Fortunately, I had two bottles of water with me – far more than I was ever going to need, so I was able to help out.

Leaving the top of Pen-y-ghent I had to cross the end of this small pond…

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…but as I approached, something jumped from a nearby rock and splashed into the water. Only then did the constant rhythmic droning sound, which I had vaguely attributed to a distant tractor engine or perhaps an unseen drone or helicopter, properly come into focus. And looking along the pool, I could instantly recognise its source…

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My presence caused many of the Frogs to submerge and disappear, but some were not so easily discouraged and I watched, listened and took photos for around twenty minutes.

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I’ve seen this before, once in Wark Forest back in 1985 when my Dad and I were close to finishing the Pennine Way, and the other time at Lanty’s Tarn when we were staying in Patterdale YHA for a big family Easter get-together, which must be of a similar vintage.

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I did think I’d seen Frogs mating much nearer home at Leighton Moss a few years ago, and then again a year later, but now I’m completely convinced that those were in fact Toads.

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What the photos can’t capture is the singing and the frenetic activity, with balls of frogs rolling and surging and other frogs pushing and jumping to join in.

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Frogspawn.

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I think the Frog on the right here has his throat bulging pre-song like a tiny Pavarotti.

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Perhaps this photo, with the boiling surface of the pond and the indistinguishable welter of Frog flesh does go some way to capture their energetic couplings. Hmmm…perhaps ‘couplings’ is the wrong word?

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Some of the Frogs, meanwhile, held themselves aloof. This one seemed to be keeping a beady eye on me.

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Eventually, I dragged myself away. Daylight was short, I knew, and the extension over Plover Hill would add a few miles to my walk, but the light was glorious and it seemed churlish not to continue.

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Plover Hill.

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Red Grouse.

I think that the male, at least, has similar ideas to the Frogs.

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Looking back to Pen-y-ghent.

I suspect I’ve probably been up Plover Hill before, but if I have, I’ve forgotten.

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The descent towards Foxup Moor has one short steep section, but a cleverly constructed section of path cuts down across the slope at an angle, taking the sting out of it.

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Looking back up to Plover Hill.

With both me and the sun losing height, I knew that sunset must be imminent. I kept walking 50 yards or so and then taking another photo.

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Ingleborough on the left. Whernside on the right?

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The last of the sun.

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Afterglow.

Fortunately, sunset photographs can be misleading: I still had plenty of light to walk by…

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The path is Foxup Road, which, at first at least, gave excellent walking through what looked to be very rough and tussocky country. The stream is Swarth Gill Sike…

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…which looked to have waterfalls upstream and would make for an interesting route on to Plover Hill for another day.

At this point I stopped taking pictures and concentrated on getting as far down the hill as I could while the light remained. Sadly, the path eventually became fairly boggy, which was a bit awkward in the poor light. When I reached the end of the walled lane down into Horton, I realised that I couldn’t read the fingerpost and so finally switched on my headtorch. But I knew the walk from there would be relatively easy anyway. My final mile or so, in the gathering gloom, was enlivened by the lyrical calls of Pee-wits and a cacophony of squabbling Jackdaws settling down to roost in a nearby wood.

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Just over 10 miles and 500m of ascent. Not bad for a spur of the moment thing.

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Not that it’s the stats I will remember!

Pen-y-ghent and Plover Hill